Education, implementation, and policy barriers to greater integration of palliative care: A literature review

Melissa D. Aldridge, Jeroen Hasselaar, Eduardo Garralda, Marlieke Van Der Eerden, David Stevenson, Karen McKendrick, Carlos Centeno, Diane E. Meier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

226 Scopus citations


Background: Early integration of palliative care into the management of patients with serious disease has the potential to both improve quality of life of patients and families and reduce healthcare costs. Despite these benefits, significant barriers exist in the United States to the early integration of palliative care in the disease trajectory of individuals with serious illness. Aim: To provide an overview of the barriers to more widespread palliative care integration in the United States. Design and data sources: A literature review using PubMed from 2005 to March 2015 augmented by primary data collected from 405 hospitals included in the Center to Advance Palliative Care's National Palliative Care Registry for years 2012 and 2013. We use the World Health Organization's Public Health Strategy for Palliative Care as a framework for analyzing barriers to palliative care integration. Results: We identified key barriers to palliative care integration across three World Health Organization domains: (1) education domain: lack of adequate education/training and perception of palliative care as end-of-life care; (2) implementation domain: inadequate size of palliative medicine-trained workforce, challenge of identifying patients appropriate for palliative care referral, and need for culture change across settings; (3) policy domain: fragmented healthcare system, need for greater funding for research, lack of adequate reimbursement for palliative care, and regulatory barriers. Conclusion: We describe the key policy and educational opportunities in the United States to address and potentially overcome the barriers to greater integration of palliative care into the healthcare of Americans with serious illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-239
Number of pages16
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Palliative care
  • barriers
  • integrated palliative care


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